Each 12 members of our relay team will be running 3 separate legs over the almost 200 mile course. With the legs we run spread out over the span of a couple of days, each member has a more-than-likely chance that one will be during “nighttime hours,” that’s 6:00PM to 7:30AM in the case of the DC relay. During those hours, a runner is required to wear a reflective vest, a headlamp, and a blinking LED tail-light. Also, during those designated hours, any team member who is outside of their team van must be wearing a reflective vest. I decided I better start getting myself together and making sure I had what I need to participate.
We have accumulated a bunch of night and reflective gear from hiking, geocaching, letterboxing, running and biking. Some of the products, like the Cateye red LED, are great but wouldn’t really work for what are required to meet Ragnar’s safety requirements. Others are only made for attaching to our bikes so they weren’t options either. That left me with a few that I thought were worth reviewing.
The one I have (Trailfinder Brilliant Beam) retails for about $20, has three settings (flood light/ spot light/ red) that require you to cycle through before the soft top mounted push button turns the product to off. It takes 3 AAA batteries that are easy to change because the compartment opens with a plastic clip style cover. The elastic head band is adjustable as it the angle of the lamp. The padding that rests on your forehead is only 1/16″ of closed cell foam but I have always found it to be plenty but maybe that is because I wear it on top of a hat. The problems I have had with it running in the dark are that it is a bit large and heavy. If I choose to change the angle of the beam instead of the upright position, it tends to keep dropping down. The positive is that when it is upright, it doesn’t shift at all.
The Coleman Axis is the one Jim runs with and he is the family’s night runner. it is much smaller that the above mentioned Energizer and can be also found for about $20 or less. It also takes 3 AAA batteries that are easy to change if you take a moment to familiarize yourself with the compartment. Using a screwdriver or coin, the compartment opens and a round cartridge holding the batteries slides out. I was initially confused with this (same as a similar Garrity head lamp we have) because the first thing you see are 3 extremely tiny phillips-head screws. You DO NOT need a glasses repair kit to change the batteries. Don’t be a doofus like me and start taking the guts of the battery cartridge apart, let gravity or maybe a little extra shake slide the cartridge out and into your hand. It’s elastic headband adjusts as well as the angle of the lamp. It has two brightness setting of high and low (more recent model also has red) that are easily cycled through by pushing the broad integrated bars atop the lamp. Because it is only 3.6oz it does not bounce out of position while Jim is running. I haven’t run with it because I didn’t want to mess up adjustment of the headband for him but something says I will be borrowing this sweety for Ragnar. He says that although there is no padding other than the elastic strap, he hasn’t had a problem with it but usually wears a thin beanie when it is cold/dark enough to be wearing a headlamp.
Our Knuckle Lights were my gift to Jim but I have used them a few times too. We have actually shared, each of us wearing one, as we ran around our end of town to trit-trot viewing holiday lights. They are designed to be worn on your hands and allow quick and easy repositioning of the direction of the beam without requiring you to move your head. This allows you to gently wave in the direction (but not in the eyes of) of oncoming drivers or scan the path ahead for terrain changes or potholes. They each have a large button which your thumb can easily mash to cycle through the high, low and blinking LED settings. The easy to adjust silicone strap isn’t objectionable to have riding in your hand when you are sweating and can be let out to accommodate bulky gloves in the winter. The batteries, 2 AAA for each unit, are very easy to access with plastic clip style covers. It is the cover which your knuckles rest against and has a pleasant sheet of 1/16″ closed cell foam padding.
I love this product but have encountered a couple of problems with it. Cold weather, really cold weather has the batteries failing about 30 minutes into a run. Maybe it is because little to no heat is comes from gloved hands but a lot of heat comes off a head even when it is covered with a woolen beanie. All I know is that Jim cannot rely on Knuckle Lights in the dead of winter and sticks with his Coleman Headlamp. I also have a problem with sometimes blinding myself while I wipe sweat from my face and shining a Knuckle Light onto the underside of my hat brim. Yes, I could try to remember to turn them off but, really, I don’t need more things to think about when on a sweaty long run in the dark. Ragnar requires a headlamp so I may not be bringing the Knuckle Lights at all.
Nathan Tail Light
The Nathan Clip-On Deluxe L.E.D. Safety Strobe can be found for under $10. Although the ones I have found online say they take 1 AAA battery ours has 2 AAA batteries inside. It requires a screwdriver (or coin) to pop the red lens off for a quick and easy access to the battery compartment. A soft push button on the back allows you to cycle through solid, flashing (slow and fast) and crazy rave strobe settings. No need to adjust anything, this product’s clip allows you to slip it right onto your waistband, SPIbelt or race number strap. It’s is lightweight and you won’t even feel it. The only downside I found was that you must cycle through all the flashing settings to get it to turn off as opposed to some bike mounted lights you can press and hold the button for immediate darkness.
Along with Jim’s Asics Reflective Vest I tested a bunch of the above mentioned lights on my long run yesterday morning. It was yet another hot humid day and the night gear testing was extra incentive to get myself out the door at 4:30 AM to beat the heat. All of the fussing around with gear had me logging a terribly slow pace but it was gratifying to have the knowledge of little things that worked and what tweaks I need to make to comply with the Ragnar safety rules. I had worn Jim’s vest before but even with adjusting the unisex size as snugly as possible it had always shimmied off of my shoulders. It is also so long that it covered my required flashing tail light. My needing to pull my SPIbelt (with attached Nathan Tail Light) up and over the vest actually solved the light visibility issue AND the shifting vest – victory! Lightweight and reflective in all the right places, this vest will be coming along to run Ragnar.
A final product I wanted to mention is a High Intensity Iron-On Reflective Tape that I found. It is great to enhance any clothing you might wear at night to make it more reflective. Very affordable and I added some strips to the vest.
I look forward to testing out more products that I will be using during the Ragnar Relay!